Step Inside an Interior Designer’s Eclectic Family Home in Palm Hills
With an approach that many would think is too much, this interior designer was looking to make her home her own.
Designing your own home comes with an abundance of freedom to do whatever you want, and for interior designer Mehry El Masry - Co-Founder of Dubai-based furniture design studio Talata Design and interior design studio Talata Spaces - this meant that her family home in Palm Hills became a medley of Mediterranean design styles, from Italy to Greece to Egypt. Believing that houses should reflect their environment, she created timeless living spaces filled with objects passed down through her family and ensured that they got an abundance of natural light.
“Working on my own home gave me free reign to do what I want and express the styles I like,” El Masry tells SceneHome. Despite open floor plans being the interior design craze for a while, there are certain aspects of vintage living that she appreciated. While the shared living spaces have sunlight pouring through their French-style windows, El Masry still wanted to separate certain areas such as the classic entrance and guest washroom which features vintage carpets, paintings and chairs. “I don’t believe in throwing things away and creating a modern interior from scratch. What makes a house special are the things you have in it.”
Many of the decorations placed within the house belonged to the designer’s great grandfather and while they all hold sentimental value to her, the largest was placed in an enclosed dining room for preservation. “I grew up on this dining table and when I was working on the house I remembered its rich history and knew it would work well in the room,” she says of the centrepiece of the space, which is marked with Arabic calligraphy of song lyrics carved into wood. “An 18th century tapestry my great grandfather got from France is placed on the wall. You can still see it from everywhere in the house but it’s preserved from sunlight in the dining room.”
The main living space opens up with bright natural lighting and neutral surfaces that let artworks and furniture pop out with their colour. “I tried to get as much light as possible into the house, because it’s essential for happy living.” Meant for casual family gatherings and movie nights, the living area features modern leather sofas as it’s meant to exude comfort.
“I love Arabic influences and I’m obsessed with its richness. People assume that it’s old and rarely integrate it into modern houses,” El Masry says, as her house ranges from Arabesque and cottage, to French and classical. “When you do things simply because they’re in trend, you’ll eventually get bored of them in a couple of years and it’ll be difficult to add to them.”
Many of the pieces in the living space were made by El Masry for Talata, such as the coffee and side tables placed in the blue side of the space alongside cane chairs. “I was trying to give the space an Arabic form with the feeling of a Majlis but with a modern concept.” The flooring is grey and white chequered marble that maintains a French tone. “Most of the colours are natural, aside from the dining room, the open areas get their colour from artworks and are minimally covered with carpets to let the marble floor breathe, which looks like a piece of art on its own.”
Separated by a chimney, a modern-day salon sits opposite to the blue area, yet is linked with wooden flooring.
“There’s a mix of styles here. The Mashrabiya sofa designed for Talata is an amalgamation of French and Arabic design with legs and Mother of Pearl inlay that turned it into an eclectic piece,” El Masry explains. “French houses often have modern sofa beds next to chimneys and I wanted to get that same look but with something that is more Egyptian.”
The top floor hosts bedrooms, each with its own living room, and in the middle is a cottage-style kitchenette. “This is our breakfast room, where we all meet. The wallpaper, table cloth and chair fabrics are from Laura Ashley and the marble flooring is roughened up to look slightly run down.”
Inside the master bedroom, everything is connected with blue tiles and is completely open. “You walk through the washroom to get to the bed, dressing, bay window, living space and the terrace which has an old bamboo set from our house in Agamy,” she says of her private quarters. Two hand-drawn sinks matching the tiles were custom-made for the room and an old Art Deco cupboard was placed for storage. “I didn’t want the room to look new, instead everything looks timeless. You walk into it today or in 10 years and it’s still going to have the same feel.”
In one of the other rooms, hosting her daughter, the design is light and bright with a boho feel to it. Yet it still maintains the Islamic influences with an arch behind the bed. “Islamic style is consistent throughout the house but it’s used differently in each room.”
Outdoors, a shower similar to those found in hotels in Bali was placed with a Greek look made up of minimal surfaces and arches. “I used mosaic paste which is an old material used in Greece to give it a rough look with cracks. I didn’t like the concept of having a slick look to everything.” Maintaining the neutral feel and the Islamic design, the pergola has a wooden ceiling riddled with star patterns and hosts furniture from Talata.
“The world is rich and there are a lot of things we can use in our homes,” she says of her repurposing of old furniture pieces belonging to her family homes. It isn’t about disliking modern things, if anything El Masry enjoys modernity and what it has to offer. But that doesn’t mean that she’ll throw things away, instead she embraces the richness of history and puts it in a modern setting that is comfortable. To the designer, being modern is more of a lifestyle than it is an aesthetic.
Photography Credit: Nour El Refai